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marmar

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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 64,872

Journal Archives

What Happened to the Recovery?


from Dollars & Sense:


What Happened to the Recovery?
BY GERALD FRIEDMAN


Part I: Weak Employment, Stagnant Wages, and Booming Profits

The 2007-2010 recession was the longest and deepest since World War II. The subsequent recovery has been the weakest in the postwar period. While total employment has finally returned to its pre-recession level, millions remain out of work and annual output (GDP) is almost a trillion dollars below the economy’s “full-employment” capacity. This column explains how high levels of unemployment have held down wages, contributing to soaring corporate profits and a remarkable run-up in the stock market.

Output plunged and has not recovered. There was a sharp fall in output (GDP) at the onset of the Great Recession, down to 8% below what the economy could produce if labor and other resources were employed at normal levels (“full employment” capacity). Since the recovery began, output has grown at barely above the rate of growth in capacity, leaving the “output gap” at more than 6% of the economy’s potential—or nearly $1 trillion per year.



........(snip)........

Part II: Government Policy and Why the Recovery Has Been So Slow

The recovery from the Great Recession has been so slow because government policy has not addressed the underlying problem: the weakness of demand that restrained growth before the recession and that ultimately brought on a crisis. Focused on the dramatic events of fall 2008, including the collapse of Lehman Brothers, policymakers approached the Great Recession as a financial crisis and sought to minimize the effects of the meltdown on the real economy, mainly by providing liquidity to the banking sector. While monetary policy has focused on protecting the financial system, including protecting financial firms from the consequences of their own actions, government has done less to address the real causes of economic malaise: declining domestic investment and the lack of effective demand. Monetary policy has been unable to spark recovery because low interest rates have not been enough to encourage businesses and consumers to invest. Instead, we need a much more robust fiscal policy to stimulate a stronger recovery.

The Fed has kept interest rates unprecedentedly low. Determined not to repeat what orthodox economists saw as the main cause of the Great Depression—a “tight” money supply—the Federal Reserve responded very aggressively to the crisis in 2007 and 2008. The Fed drove its main target short-term interest rate, the federal funds rate, down to an unprecedented near-zero level. Even at interest rates below zero in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, however, effective demand has been so depressed and so much unused productive capacity has remained that banks have found few borrowers. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2014/0814friedman.html



Naomi Klein's new book explains the connections between capitalism and climate change





(In These Times) In her previous books The Shock Doctrine (2007) and No Logo (2000), Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein took on topics like neoliberal “shock therapy,” consumerism, globalization and “disaster capitalism,” extensively documenting the forces behind the dramatic rise in economic inequality and environmental degradation over the past 50 years. But in her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (due in stores Sept. 16), Klein casts her gaze toward the future, arguing that the dangers of climate change demand radical action now to ward off catastrophe. She certainly isn’t alone in pointing out the urgency of the threat, but what sets Klein apart is her argument that it is capitalism—not carbon—that is at the root of climate change, inexorably driving us toward an environmental Armageddon in the pursuit of profit. This Changes Everything is well worth a read (or two) in full, but we’ve distilled some of its key points here.

1. Band-Aid solutions don’t work.

“Only mass social movements can save us now. Because we know where the current system, left unchecked, is headed.”

Much of the conversation surrounding climate change focuses on what Klein dismisses as “Band-Aid solutions”: profit-friendly fixes like whizz-bang technological innovations, cap-and-trade schemes and supposedly “clean” alternatives like natural gas. To Klein, such strategies are too little, too late. In her drawn-out critique of corporate involvement in climate change prevention, she demonstrates how profitable “solutions” put forward by many think-tanks (and their corporate backers) actually end up making the problem worse. For instance, Klein argues that carbon trading programs create perverse incentives, allowing manufacturers to produce more harmful greenhouse gases, just to be paid to reduce them. In the process, carbon trading schemes have helped corporations make billions—allowing them to directly profit off the degradation of the planet. Instead, Klein argues, we need to break free of market fundamentalism and implement long-term planning, strict regulation of business, more taxation, more government spending and reversals of privatization to return key infrastructure to public control.

2. We need to fix ourselves, not fix the world.

“The earth is not our prisoner, our patient, our machine, or, indeed, our monster. It is our entire world. And the solution to global warming is not to fix the world, it is to fix ourselves.”

Klein devotes a full chapter of the book to geoengineering: the field of research, championed by a niche group of scientists, funders and media figures, that aims to fight global warming by altering the earth itself—say, by covering deserts with reflective material to send sunlight back to space or even dimming the sun to decrease the amount of heat reaching the planet. However, politicians and much of the global public have raised environmental, health and ethical concerns regarding these proposed science experiments with the planet, and Klein warns of the unknown consequences of creating “a Frankenstein’s world,” with multiple countries launching projects simultaneously. Instead of restoring an environmental equilibrium, Klein argues these “techno-fixes” will only further upset the earth’s balance, each one creating a host of new problems, requiring an endless chain of further “fixes.” She writes, “The earth—our life support system—would itself be put on life support, hooked up to machines 24/7 to prevent it from going full-tilt monster on us.”

3. We can’t rely on “well-intentioned” corporate funding.

“A great many progressives have opted out of the climate change debate in part because they thought that the Big Green groups, flush with philanthropic dollars, had this issue covered. That, it turns out, was a grave mistake.”

Klein strongly critiques partnerships between corporations and major environmental groups, along with attempts by “green billionaires” such as Bill Gates and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson to use capitalism to fighting global warming. When capitalism itself is a principal cause of climate change, Klein argues, it doesn’t make sense to expect corporations and billionaires to put the planet before profit. For example, though the Gates Foundation funds many major environmental groups dedicated to combating climate change, as of December 2013, it had at least $1.2 billion invested in BP and ExxonMobil. In addition, when Big Greens become dependent on corporate funding, they start to push a corporate agenda. For instance, organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund, which have taken millions of dollars from pro-fracking corporate funders, such as Shell, Chevron and JP Morgan, are pitching natural gas as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17079/this_changes_everything_naomi_klein_lessons



Naomi Klein is back, telling it like it is about capitalism and climate change




(In These Times) In her previous books The Shock Doctrine (2007) and No Logo (2000), Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein took on topics like neoliberal “shock therapy,” consumerism, globalization and “disaster capitalism,” extensively documenting the forces behind the dramatic rise in economic inequality and environmental degradation over the past 50 years. But in her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (due in stores Sept. 16), Klein casts her gaze toward the future, arguing that the dangers of climate change demand radical action now to ward off catastrophe. She certainly isn’t alone in pointing out the urgency of the threat, but what sets Klein apart is her argument that it is capitalism—not carbon—that is at the root of climate change, inexorably driving us toward an environmental Armageddon in the pursuit of profit. This Changes Everything is well worth a read (or two) in full, but we’ve distilled some of its key points here.

1. Band-Aid solutions don’t work.

“Only mass social movements can save us now. Because we know where the current system, left unchecked, is headed.”

Much of the conversation surrounding climate change focuses on what Klein dismisses as “Band-Aid solutions”: profit-friendly fixes like whizz-bang technological innovations, cap-and-trade schemes and supposedly “clean” alternatives like natural gas. To Klein, such strategies are too little, too late. In her drawn-out critique of corporate involvement in climate change prevention, she demonstrates how profitable “solutions” put forward by many think-tanks (and their corporate backers) actually end up making the problem worse. For instance, Klein argues that carbon trading programs create perverse incentives, allowing manufacturers to produce more harmful greenhouse gases, just to be paid to reduce them. In the process, carbon trading schemes have helped corporations make billions—allowing them to directly profit off the degradation of the planet. Instead, Klein argues, we need to break free of market fundamentalism and implement long-term planning, strict regulation of business, more taxation, more government spending and reversals of privatization to return key infrastructure to public control.

2. We need to fix ourselves, not fix the world.

“The earth is not our prisoner, our patient, our machine, or, indeed, our monster. It is our entire world. And the solution to global warming is not to fix the world, it is to fix ourselves.”

Klein devotes a full chapter of the book to geoengineering: the field of research, championed by a niche group of scientists, funders and media figures, that aims to fight global warming by altering the earth itself—say, by covering deserts with reflective material to send sunlight back to space or even dimming the sun to decrease the amount of heat reaching the planet. However, politicians and much of the global public have raised environmental, health and ethical concerns regarding these proposed science experiments with the planet, and Klein warns of the unknown consequences of creating “a Frankenstein’s world,” with multiple countries launching projects simultaneously. Instead of restoring an environmental equilibrium, Klein argues these “techno-fixes” will only further upset the earth’s balance, each one creating a host of new problems, requiring an endless chain of further “fixes.” She writes, “The earth—our life support system—would itself be put on life support, hooked up to machines 24/7 to prevent it from going full-tilt monster on us.”

3. We can’t rely on “well-intentioned” corporate funding.

“A great many progressives have opted out of the climate change debate in part because they thought that the Big Green groups, flush with philanthropic dollars, had this issue covered. That, it turns out, was a grave mistake.”

Klein strongly critiques partnerships between corporations and major environmental groups, along with attempts by “green billionaires” such as Bill Gates and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson to use capitalism to fighting global warming. When capitalism itself is a principal cause of climate change, Klein argues, it doesn’t make sense to expect corporations and billionaires to put the planet before profit. For example, though the Gates Foundation funds many major environmental groups dedicated to combating climate change, as of December 2013, it had at least $1.2 billion invested in BP and ExxonMobil. In addition, when Big Greens become dependent on corporate funding, they start to push a corporate agenda. For instance, organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund, which have taken millions of dollars from pro-fracking corporate funders, such as Shell, Chevron and JP Morgan, are pitching natural gas as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17079/this_changes_everything_naomi_klein_lessons



California Drought Stings Bees And Honey Supplies


LOS BANOS, Calif. (AP) — California's record drought hasn't been sweet to honeybees, and it's creating a sticky situation for beekeepers and honey buyers.

The state is traditionally one of the country's largest honey producers, with abundant crops and wildflowers that provide the nectar that bees turn into honey. But the lack of rain has ravaged native plants and forced farmers to scale back crop production, leaving fewer places for honeybees to forage.

The historic drought, now in its third year, is reducing supplies of California honey, raising prices for consumers and making it harder for beekeepers to earn a living.

"Our honey crop is severely impacted by the drought, and it does impact our bottom line as a business," said Gene Brandi, a beekeeper in Los Banos, a farming town in California's Central Valley. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/21/california-drought-bees_n_5697008.html?utm_hp_ref=green



Apocalypse of the "Happy Meal": The Cathedral of Cholesterol


(Truthout) No one needs to eat livestock to survive. Yet meat is almost universally the focus of the Western diet. When you go to a restaurant and the waiter asks you what you'll have, you respond with the meat or fish entree. You don't say, "the asparagus" or "the rice" or the "mixed veggies." Everything else on the menu is known as a "side dish," or is even regarded as an afterthought. Arby's even advertises "Mega Meat Stacks" and "Meats Upon Meats Upon Meats." And this is pure insanity - on a global scale.

The average American eats between two and five times more protein than they actually need. Basically, we eat animals because we want to, or because we're duped into it by the Big Ag Empire.

In the last 50 years worldwide meat consumption per capita has doubled, primarily because of corporate advertising. Karl's Jr. puts a scantily clad, super model eating a monster hamburger and dripping it all over herself, and subconsciously men think that eating a hamburger will lead to sex with that super model. Women think, just as absurdly, that eating that hamburger will make them look like that super model. McDonald's spends about $1.4 billion a year trying to convince us to worship at their cathedral of cholesterol. The rest of the meat and dairy industries also spend vast sums of money in television and magazine advertising every year to convince Americans that the key to happiness is eating huge amounts of cow meat, cheese, milk, eggs, chicken and other assorted animal products.

.........(snip).........

Virtually all feedlot-raised cattle are administered growth hormones and antibiotics like penicillin and tetracycline. In fact, about 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States go to livestock. The antibiotics are used not only for bacterial protection given the putrid conditions livestock are kept in, but also because they act to fatten them up. That should prompt the question in your mind about what those antibiotics do to you when you eat those same livestock. In fact numerous experiments on humans dating back to the 1950s have shown that humans also gain weight when fed a steady diet of antibiotics.

This has potential implications for the worldwide obesity epidemic, and should provide "food for thought" next time you order a "thick and juicy Karl's Jr." and expect that to be your ticket to becoming a super model. No one seems to have studied whether the residual low doses of antibiotics in livestock meat are enough to make you gain weight, but there is evidence that those doses are sufficient to disrupt the normal composition of your gut bacteria, increasing your susceptibility to infections. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/25682-apocalypse-of-the-happy-meal-the-cathedral-of-cholesterol



Juan Cole: What Do Iraq’s Sunni Arabs Have in Common with Ferguson, Mo. African-Americans?


What Do Iraq’s Sunni Arabs Have in Common with Ferguson, Mo. African-Americans?

Posted on Aug 21, 2014
By Juan Cole


If prime minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi in Iraq is to hope to defeat the so-called “Islamic State” (actually a kind of mafia made up of serial murderers and marauders), he must find a way to re-incorporate Iraq’s Sunni Arabs into the government, which has been dominated by Shiite religious parties since 2005, partly because of Neoconservative U.S. preference for Arab Shiite rule under the Bush occupation.

Al-Abadi has succeeded in getting a pledge from the largely separatist Sunni Kurds to hold off on leaving Iraq and to participate in his government at the cabinet and parliamentary level in Baghdad. (Kurdistan is an ethnic super-province a little like French-speaking Quebec in Canada, but with much more autonomy from the central government; Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani has threatened to hold a referendum within six months on complete secession and independence).

A Sunni Arab political bloc, al-Hall (“Solution”), led by Jamal al-Karbuli has sent a letter to al-Abadi detailing their demands. Al-Karbuli (or al-Karbouli) had led a faction within the old Iraqiya party coalition which has been the main vehicle of Sunni parliamentary politics in recent years. He blames Iraq violence and bombings on Shiite Iran.

They want the thousands of Sunni Arab detainees (accused of anti-government activity by outgoing prime minister Nouri al-Maliki) given an amnesty;

They want a fair distribution of cabinet seats and government jobs (the only kind of reliable jobs there really are in Iraq) with regard to the Sunni Arabs, tens of thousands of which were fired in the past decade and replaced with Shiites; ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/what_do_iraqs_sunni_arabs_share_with_ferguson_mo_african-americans_20140821



The Neocons’ Grim ‘Victory’ in Iraq


from Consortium News:


The Neocons’ Grim ‘Victory’ in Iraq
August 20, 2014

The neocons who plunged the U.S. into the disastrous Iraq War never say they’re sorry. Instead, it’s all about how their idea was great but President Bush bungled the implementation or how the war was “won” but President Obama chose defeat. Still, the real neocon “victory” could be their success in inflicting endless chaos on the Middle East, as JP Sottile observes.


By JP Sottile


Neocons do like to declare victory, especially regarding the Iraq War. So it came as no surprise that Paul Wolfowitz, apparently unimpressed by Iraq’s mounting crisis, regaled a recent panel discussion at the U.S.-Africa Summit with the blunt proclamation, “We have won it — in 2009.” Unsurprisingly, that’s when Team Bush left the White House — and approximately 150,000 troops behind in Iraq.

Perhaps also not surprisingly, war-weary Americans didn’t pay much attention to Paul’s pronouncement. No doubt they are as tired of Wolfowitz as they are of the war he helped to start. It probably rang as hollow as the faint echo of his earlier pitch for a quick, all-expenses-paid war against 2003’s Hitler of the Moment — Saddam Hussein.

But it’s not quite as simple as that. The issue got more complicated shortly after the Africa summit when President Barack Obama — who had pinned his legacy on extricating the United States from Iraq — suddenly found himself at a podium to announce limited, but open-ended military action to halt the dreaded march of The Islamic State (often called ISIS or ISIL) through the repeatedly rocked Cradle of Civilization.

Many have explained the organization’s plan for creating a fundamentalist caliphate and its reliance on shockingly brutal tactics that make ISIS something that even al-Qaeda could never be, nor perhaps ever wanted to be. Many others have prodded the dying corpse of Iraq to assign blame here, there and everywhere. But the most basic reason for more bombing is found right there in the self-aggrandizing quip by Paul Wolfowitz. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://consortiumnews.com/2014/08/20/the-neocons-grim-victory-in-iraq/



What Happened to the Recovery?


from Dollars & Sense:


What Happened to the Recovery?
BY GERALD FRIEDMAN


Part I: Weak Employment, Stagnant Wages, and Booming Profits

The 2007-2010 recession was the longest and deepest since World War II. The subsequent recovery has been the weakest in the postwar period. While total employment has finally returned to its pre-recession level, millions remain out of work and annual output (GDP) is almost a trillion dollars below the economy’s “full-employment” capacity. This column explains how high levels of unemployment have held down wages, contributing to soaring corporate profits and a remarkable run-up in the stock market.

Output plunged and has not recovered. There was a sharp fall in output (GDP) at the onset of the Great Recession, down to 8% below what the economy could produce if labor and other resources were employed at normal levels (“full employment” capacity). Since the recovery began, output has grown at barely above the rate of growth in capacity, leaving the “output gap” at more than 6% of the economy’s potential—or nearly $1 trillion per year.



........(snip)........

Part II: Government Policy and Why the Recovery Has Been So Slow

The recovery from the Great Recession has been so slow because government policy has not addressed the underlying problem: the weakness of demand that restrained growth before the recession and that ultimately brought on a crisis. Focused on the dramatic events of fall 2008, including the collapse of Lehman Brothers, policymakers approached the Great Recession as a financial crisis and sought to minimize the effects of the meltdown on the real economy, mainly by providing liquidity to the banking sector. While monetary policy has focused on protecting the financial system, including protecting financial firms from the consequences of their own actions, government has done less to address the real causes of economic malaise: declining domestic investment and the lack of effective demand. Monetary policy has been unable to spark recovery because low interest rates have not been enough to encourage businesses and consumers to invest. Instead, we need a much more robust fiscal policy to stimulate a stronger recovery.

The Fed has kept interest rates unprecedentedly low. Determined not to repeat what orthodox economists saw as the main cause of the Great Depression—a “tight” money supply—the Federal Reserve responded very aggressively to the crisis in 2007 and 2008. The Fed drove its main target short-term interest rate, the federal funds rate, down to an unprecedented near-zero level. Even at interest rates below zero in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, however, effective demand has been so depressed and so much unused productive capacity has remained that banks have found few borrowers. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2014/0814friedman.html



The Con Artistry of Charter Schools


from In These Times:


The Con Artistry of Charter Schools
Once an effort to improve public education, the charter school movement has transformed into a money-making venture.

BY RUTH CONNIFF


There’s been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.

From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from Hartford to Cincinnatti to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.

“The troubled Hartford charter school operator FUSE was dealt another blow Friday when FBI agents served it with subpoenas to a grand jury that is examining the group's operations. When two Courant reporters arrived at FUSE offices on Asylum Hill on Friday morning, minutes after the FBI's visit, they saw a woman feeding sheaves of documents into a shredder.”—The Hartford Courant, July 18, 2014

“The FBI has raided an Albuquerque school just months after the state started peering into the school’s finances. KRQE News 13 learned federal agents were there because of allegations that someone may have been taking money that was meant for the classroom at the Southwest Secondary Learning Center on Candelaria, near Morris in northwest Albuquerque … “—KRQE News 13, August 1 2014

“Wednesday evening's FBI raid on a charter school in East Baton Rouge is the latest item in a list of scandals involving the organization that holds the charter for the Kenilworth Science and Technology School. … Pelican Educational Foundation runs the school and has ties to a family from Turkey. The school receives about $5,000,000 in local, state, and federal tax money. … the FBI raided the school six days after the agency renewed the Baton Rouge school’s charter through the year 2019.”—The Advocate, January 14, 2014

“The state of Pennsylvania is bringing in the FBI to look into accusations that a Pittsburgh charter school misspent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on luxuries such as fine-dining and retreats at exclusive resorts and spas.”—CBS News November 12, 2013

“COLUMBUS, OH—A federal grand jury has indicted four people, alleging that they offered and accepted bribes and kickbacks as part of a public corruption conspiracy in their roles as managers and a consultant for Arise! Academy, a charter school in Dayton, Ohio.” —FBI Press Release, June 2014


What’s going on here?

Charter schools are such a racket, across the nation they are attracting special attention from the FBI, which is working with the Department of Education’s inspector general to look into allegations of charter-school fraud.

One target, covered in an August 12 story in The Atlantic, is the secretive Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who runs the largest charter-school chain in the United States.

The Atlantic felt compelled to note, repeatedly, that it would be xenophobic to single out the Gulen schools and their mysterious Muslim founder for lack of transparency and the misuse of public funds.

“It isn’t the Gulen movement that makes Gulen charters so secretive,” writes The Atlantic’s Scott Beauchamp, “it’s the charter movement itself.” .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17109/the_con_artistry_of_charter_schools



Big Dallas Plunder (rule change can open the door for school privatization)


from In These Times:


Big Dallas Plunder
Dallas business interests stacked the school board. Now, a rule change could open the door for wholesale school privatization.

BY GEORGE JOSEPH


Dallas school board elections are generally lackadaisical affairs. In 2011, the school board elections were cancelled for lack of interest, as all three candidates ran unopposed. But since the beginning of 2012, hundreds of thousands of Super PAC dollars from Dallas’ richest neighborhoods began flowing into nearly all of the district’s school board elections.

Since 2011, Educate Dallas, a PAC backed by the Dallas Regional Chamber (the local Chamber of Commerce), has raised $661,953 in cash on hand for its school board war chest, and the Dallas-based education reform PAC Kids First, led by millionaire tech CEO Ken Barth, has raised $661,616. The majority of their donations come from Dallas’ famous aristocrats, including Barth, Ross Perot, Ray Hunt—an oil heir with a net worth of $5.8 billion—and Harlan Crow, a real estate heir and buddy of Clarence Thomas.

What made white businessmen from Dallas’ segregated northern enclaves, who typically donate to their children’s private academies, start caring about the plight of a low-income district? In Dallas Independent School District, 89 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch and 95.4 percent are students of color.

One hint may come from trips that the Chamber funded for school board and city council members. District records show that since at least 2011, the Chamber spent thousands on its so-called “best practices” tour—trips for city council and school board members to Denver, Houston and Los Angeles to better understand charter schools, publicly funded but privately operated institutions. For-profit charters have been expanding in Dallas over the past 15 years, especially in the wake of the closure of 11 public schools in early 2012. And the Chamber boasts a number of charter-school operators among its members, including longtime affiliates Uplift Education and Texans CAN Academies, two of the city’s largest charter chains. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17110/dallas_home_rule_push_could_open_the_charter_floodgates



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